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Catastrophe-Causing Caterpillars

Rhode Island is being invaded by a species of caterpillars that could possibly cause millions of dollars in damage to the environment.


These winter moth caterpillars, originally from Europe, eat the leaves of many trees which can ultimately kill the tree. This has been a particular concern for fruit farmers.

DEA/Giovanoli, Getty Images

Deputy Chief of the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Forest Environment, Bruce Payton, reported seeing several caterpillars clearly devouring a tree in Smithfield.

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One way to tell if you’re infested with these winter moth caterpillars is to see if you have holes in the leaves of your tree, about the size of a buckshot.

If you want to know how this is being prevented, make sure your stomach’s not too queasy.

To help stop this, the state has been using parasitic flies, imported from Europe, which lay its eggs on the leaves and when the caterpillars eat the leaves, the flies grow inside the caterpillars and kill them when they burst open.

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